The federal government of Nigeria, the other day proclaimed that 63 percent of persons within the country, 133 million are living in poverty. The figure was disclosed during the launch of Nigeria’s multi-dimensional poverty index (MPI) survey in Abuja. The survey which was conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the National Social Safety Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) removed fears of opposition party involvement but solidified the survey as data about us and our future.
The report also had made clear that the measure used to calculate the figure was based on multi-dimensional poverty index (MPI) with five components of health, living standard, education, security and unemployment even as it sampled over 56,000 households across the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT, and this survey conducted between November 2021 and February 2022, further States that 65 percent of the poor 86 million people live in the North, while 35 percent, nearly 47 million live in the south.
However, in the ensuring denials, counter denials and mudslinging across the tiers of government, both the president Gen. Muhammed Buhari (RTD) and the federal minister of state for finance, budget and national planning and supervises the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Prince Clement Agba have all come to tell Nigeria how the state governors are to blame for all Nigeria’s woes. The President accused the governors of embezzling local government funds, the rogue 1999 Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria provides sent directly to the state government through the state local government joint accounts. The states according to the President and the Minister of state for finance Prince Agba are not investing in the rural areas. “They are spending money in Urban areas, borrowing, for instance to build airports and other unnecessary projects, and competing with one another in Constructing flyovers in their capitals”. These funds according to them should have been invested on building solid rural roads, especially in the agro-corridors to cut down on post-harvest losses currently put at 60 percent of total yields. They posited that enhancing the food supply chain from rural to urban areas will ensure food availability and security as well as help to address the problem of inflation.
The duo made it categorically clear that these rural areas contributing the most to the country’s poverty status are outside of the Federal Governments Obligation but sits squarely within the jurisdiction and legal responsibilities of sub-national government, that is, State Governors and Local Government Chairmen and Councilors.
But herein lies the real problem of the rogue 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria they all seem to overlook, and which is one of the grave sins of the National Assembly against Nigerians because the 1999 Constitution sits the responsibilities of the states rural and urban area squirely within the legal jurisdiction of the state governors and local government but left the funds to address the problem with the Federal government, and this has been fueling corruption in the land. The National Assembly that is supposed to address this quagmire through constitution review and amendments is looking the other way. But we shall come back to this later.
Never the less it must be stated clearly, the problem of ethnic pluralism that is standing solidly in the part of Nigeria’s development and economic emancipation, and until this problem is solved through dialogue, openness, commensurate power sharing and equity, no other problem can be properly addressed. Peace is a pre-condition for prosperity, and is only in freedom that people fully mobilize their creative powers. In Nigeria, Programs of Economic Reconstruction have continued to fail because we have failed to get the politics of national reconstruction right. In other words, the most important reform Nigeria needs is Political. We must first effect a thorough restructuring of the captive Nigerian State which will in turn reconcile the different Nigerian peoples and hence liberate the suppressed genius and complimentary energies of the people for social and economic advancement.
Our bad politics disrupts and destroys our economic and social foundations and inhibits their advance when as it seems we are too busy plotting and fighting each other in tribal conflicts to bother about concentrating our energy and focus on the enhancement of our productivity, socio economic well being and growth. And the most consistent and disruptive aspect of these frictions and tensions in Nigeria is sited in the incessant waves of jihad hoisted on Nigeria from the far North, as is clearly witnessed today under the effective Buhari caliphate. Buhari has handed the commanding heights of Nigeria’s security, military, police, administrative and economic institutions etc., primarilyto the Fulani and has proceeded to cage southern Nigeria and the middle belt into effective vassals of that empire. Our notions of democracy and rule of law seem technically suspended or put in abeyance. This is what brought Nigeria back to the austere barbaric life of bygone centuries. This in a nutshell is what has polarized Nigerian Politics today, creating so much tension, inter-ethnic and religious distrust, enmity and insecurity in the country which has disrupted the social and economic progress and development even as it has ushered in poverty in Nigeria.
And this is what the Nigerian Governors are hinting at when they fired back at the federal authorities that Nigeria is in dire straits as she is currently reeling from the criminality, dereliction of constitutional responsibilities, irresponsible economic policies, disregard for human lives, and ruthless exploitation of the masses by the Buhari administration. The federal government today present the face of an iniquitous oligarchy that has in advancement of its selfish cliquish, and fiendish interests, literally destroyed the country. In its acquiescence to terrorism and banditry, the Buhari administration relinquished the control of parts of the country to terrorists and bandits, and allowed Fulani herdsmen to range across the country unchallenged, killing, raping and kidnapping Nigerians with impunity. The administrations much vaunted fight against corruption is a colossal farce, official corruption is thriving at hitherto unprecedented heights. The economy wobbles perilously and is on the brink of collapse; as a result poverty has become more pervasive and entrenched with an increasing percentage of Nigerians trapped in extreme, raw-dirt multi-dimensional poverty which the Buhari government is unashamedly trying to bandy about. In Chinua Achebe’s classic book “The trouble with Nigeria” the revolutionary author who always tells truth to power began his work with these famous words “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure to leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian Land or Climate or Water or Air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hall marks of true leadership.
According to Achebe, Nigeria is a child: gifted, enormously talented, prodigiously endowed and incredibly wayward”.
Take for example the President Buhari and his party APC’s promise to Nigerians in 2015 and 2019 general elections to restructure the country which never came to pass and instead Nigeria’s unitary federal system of government with a lumbering central government with overwhelming powers that has robbed the states of their financial autonomy that should have helped them augment their internally generated revenue (IGR) to develop their states, rural and urban centers fully have remained.
The rogue 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which the National Assembly has refused to amend gives the Federal government to 52.68% percent of the allocation from the federation account. The 36 states of the federation have a combined share of 26.72% while the 774 local government areas in the country take 20.6%. Furthermore, South-south region share 13% of all related revenue in accordance with the principle of derivation when in developed prosperous federations we know; United states and Germany States own their oil, offshore or not, their mineral resources and their ports. The federal authorities only tax them.
But Nigeria’s Unitary Federal System while assigning exclusive statutory responsibility for the management of natural resources to the federal government was apparently intended to shore up its revenue, that choice had perverse effects of making the federal government overtly dependent on oil and gas, while neglecting the development of other mineral resources, thereby deepening corruption with adverse consequences for revenue generation. The economic wherewithal of the states including performance and financial viability, has been further impeded when our federal unitary constitution granted the federal government multiple sources of revenue to the detriment of the states. For in addition to natural resources, the federal government collect revenue from value added taxes and business registration. These two sources of revenue ought to reside in the states, to give states a competitive advantage through offering different incentives.
Also, the federalization of so many standards across the country, especially with regards to wages, salaries and other public sector entitlements, have imposed a huge fiscal burden on the states.
Again, the inclusion of power supply infrastructure in the exclusive legislative list in the 1999 constitution deprives the states of the opportunity to license, produce and regulate electric power in response to their needs, thus limiting their economic output, employment and revenue base.
So, Prince Agba and co must rather advise the Federal Government to find ways to devolve items from its 98 exclusive legislative list to the states and vote more money to the states in the constitution to address multi-dimensional poverty among the people and return peace to Nigeria.
The belief that restructuring would put some regions or states in a disadvantaged position than others is far from the truth. As there is abundant evidence that the 36 states of Nigeria are Unique and abundantly blessed with human and material resources including oil and gas, gold, diamond, tin and others. While Nigeria seems to lack the political will to take the leap, other plural societies are moving fast. When states in Nigeria wait to share money, Sao Paulo is the second richest of Brazil’s 26 states and a federal territory, with a large industrial complex and GDP per Capital that surpasses that of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. It competes with Rio de Janeiro, the third richest in industry that has a vibrant export in petroleum and other minerals.
According to expert reports, “Australian enjoy one of the highest living standards in the world” based on a national cohesion and economy that is driven by competition in mining, agriculture, industry, services and export trade among its six states and two federal territories. Like Nigeria, all its states are endowed with mineral types and arable land. But unlike Nigeria however, they exploit these resources to the fullest and compete for markets and investments.
As Nigeria tethers on the brink of oblivion brought on by the unfolding realities of alienation, conflict, violence, multi-dimensional poverty and mutual animus, among our nationalities and faiths, plus emerging voices of separation, the need to diffuse this tinderbox by taking the realistic path of remodeling the union towards devolution of powers becomes more urgent.
This is where the National Assembly must roll up their sleeves and work with unity of purpose and initiate a bill to abrogate section 44 (3) of the 1999 constitution which states: withstanding the foregoing of this section, the entire property in and control of all minerals, mineral oils and natural gas in, under or upon any land in Nigeria or in, under or upon the territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone of Nigeria shall vest in the government of the federation and shall be managed in such a manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.
The National Assembly therefore, should make a new law that confers ownershipand control of mineral resources to the states and local governments. This should be done in addition to the devolution of political power to the federating units, armed with true, fiscal federalism.
The states should control their God-given resources and pay an agreed tax to the federal center. They should then be able to decide on the priority area of their developmental agenda and finish any projects they embarked upon, in the areas of infrastructure, education, healthcare, agriculture, transportation, tourism and the minimum wage to pay their workers, more so as they are now reeling under a salary structure that is increasingly been federalized.
There is no way an over-bloated federal center can galvanizes the competitive spirit inherent in the federating units controlling their resources. What the sludge of funds at the center has succeeded in doing is to increase the spate of corruption and indolence. This is why we are hearing of budget padding by the ministers, who also repeat the same items in the budget every year, that in Nigeria cars are bought for the ministries every year. Just the other day, when called to defend the billions of naira in his ministry’s 2022 federal budget, the federal minister of information, Chief Lai Mohammed told members of the National Assembly that he needs the huge fund to fight fake news. And you wonder who the source of fake news in Nigeria is if not Mr. Lai Mohammed, who made a shocking statement recently of how his four-year-old grandson called him grandpa and asked him why people are calling him a liar. He recalled that after looking at the boy and felt the boy will not yet understand politics turned and left. Mr. Lai Mohammed never realized that it was the spirit of the Most High God that spoke to him through his grandson. It is very disheartening that APC government of President Buhari is playing politics with the lives of Nigerians. The money they siphon from the federation account is transferred abroad where they use it to buy real estates and erect factories to give work to outsiders leaving Nigerians unemployed, destitute and in grinding multi-dimensional poverty.
Often times, when in positions of authority, we tend to forget that we are in service to serve both God and Man, that one day we will leave to render account to the creator of man and the universe.
Here Moses recall in Psalm 90:9-12 “For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten: and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow: for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? Even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”.
We must understand that the world is not a living place. We are here to develop right character to eventually leave to see our maker (God Almighty) The Lord Jesus Christ admonished us not to lay up treasures for ourselves upon the earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But that we must lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:19-21.
This we do through selfless, accountable, transparent service and leadership by example to leave indelible foot prints on the sands of the time. For whatever you sow you will reap. The seed does not leave the hand of the Sower, after may days it will return. This is the age of consequences. God is not deceived whatever we sow we certainly reap. Our political leaders have been eating sour grapes since 1999, for instance, and no matter how vigilant we the children have been in recent time, our teeth will surely be set on edge in this ages of consequences.
The solution to Nigeria’s festering multifaceted problems lies in a complete rejection of this coldhearted oligarchy in the race for the 2023 Presidential Election. Nigerian’s must vote for who will set the country on a pedestal of accountability security, economic prosperity, rule of law and moral and ethical rejuvenation.
May God bless us to elect a President who may like Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil specialize in lifting millions of people out of poverty through public policies.